“Polaris Rising” Author on Writing Sci-Fi Romance

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My debut novel, Polaris Rising (Harper Voyager), is a science fiction romance, but I didn’t start out writing in the genre, despite loving both science fiction and romance.

No, the first novel I wrote, the one I took years and years to finish, was urban fantasy. In fact, it took me so long that by the time I was done, so was urban fantasy. Still, I pitched it to an agent and started on the sequel, confident that of course she was going to be wildly delighted by my prose despite the flagging UF market.

For all of you aspiring writers out there, learn from my mistakes—don’t start on the sequel to an unproven book without a very good reason. I did not have a good reason.

Writing the sequel was not going well. Some might say it wasn’t going at all. I talked with a writer friend who gently suggested I was doing something silly, as good friends often do. She suggested that maybe I try a new genre, and since she knew I’m a geek at heart, she suggested science fiction.

I’d had the opening scene for what I knew would be a science fiction novel knocking around in my head for weeks before our talk. But writers generally have no shortage of ideas, and those ideas are always most appealing when the current project isn’t going well. Knowing that, I had been studiously avoiding the shiny new story while doggedly plugging away at the sequel I was determined to finish against all logic and advice.

Looking back, it’s like my friend looked directly into my brain, saw the idea, and nudged me to write it. It was serendipity, and it should’ve been the only sign I needed to drop everything and start writing science fiction.

But I am nothing if not stubborn, so I resisted her advice for another couple of weeks, until I finally realized I was banging my head against the wall of the sequel and getting nowhere. Not only that, but I dreaded sitting down at my keyboard and producing nothing. In a fit of desperation, I decided I’d write the new opening scene and see where it took me.

Spoiler alert: that opening scene remains the opening scene of Polaris Rising.

I blazed through writing the first chapter. I love reading romance, so I knew there would at least be romantic elements, but as soon as I started writing, I knew Polaris Rising was going to be an all-in romance.

The common advice is to write the book you’d want to read, and I wanted to read a book that married two of my favorite genres. I wanted Ada, my main character, to have a partner, someone to back her up and always be on her side. I wanted Loch, my hero, to have someone he could trust. And I wanted it all to happen within an epic space adventure.

I’d read enough romance that I had the basic building-blocks of how a romantic arc was supposed to go, but writing one is a whole other ballgame. I actually found writing the romance was far harder than writing the science fiction, because writing a believable relationship is a lot of work.

That’s not to say that writing believable science fiction isn’t a lot of work—it is—but bending the rules of science is easier in fiction. A reader is far more likely to believe that fictional faster-than-light travel exists than to believe a broken relationship arc will lead to a happily ever after, because we see relationships every day, but we’re still waiting on that faster-than-light breakthrough.

I still have a lot to learn, but I love writing science fiction romance. I get to write about space ships and different planets and all of the cool fictional technology of the future while grounding it in a developing relationship between two people who desperately need each other but refuse to admit it. Plus, I get to end the book on a happy note, and I think the world could use more happily-ever-afters.

Polaris Rising is now available for purchase.

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Jessie Mihalik has a degree in Computer Science and a love of all things geeky. A software engineer by trade, Jessie now writes full time from her home in Texas. When she’s not writing, she can be found playing co-op video games with her husband, trying out new board games, or reading books pulled from her overflowing bookshelves.

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